Piles of uncollected rubbish on Bethnal Green Road during the Tower Hamlets refuse worker strike in September 2023. By Hannah Jupe © Social Streets CIC

Tower Hamlets Council has the worst recycling rates in the entire country 

Tower Hamlets Council had the worst household recycling rates out of the entire country in 2022-2023, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Tower Hamlets Council had the worst household recycling rates out of the entire country during 2022-2023. 

According to research published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last month, Tower Hamlets had the lowest recycling rate out of all 32 London boroughs and the whole of England at just 17.7 per cent.

The government defines household waste as ‘broader than waste from households’, and includes street bins, street sweepings, the emptying of drains, parks and grounds waste, soil and ‘compost-like output’. 

The department analysed every local authority in the country and found Tower Hamlets had the lowest while the London borough of Bromley had the highest household recycling rates in London at 48.7 per cent.

Outside of the capital, Liverpool City Council had the lowest household recycling rate at 17.9 per cent, while South Oxfordshire had the highest household waste recycling rate at 61.6 per cent. 

The government says recycling rates for each local authority will differ depending on three key factors; how heavily populated an area is, the kind of housing that exists there and how much organic or garden waste is collected.

The department explained in its research: ‘…in built-up areas with a higher proportion of flats, residents may find it difficult or be unwilling to store waste for recycling, and will not be producing garden waste for collection.’

Tower Hamlets has the fastest-growing population in the country and saw its local population grow by 22.1 per cent from 254,000 residents in 2011 to 310,300 residents in 2021. The East London borough is also the most densely populated area in England with 15,695 residents per square km.

When the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) got in touch with Tower Hamlets Council, a spokesperson said: ‘Tower Hamlets is faced with a number of challenges that make it unique and difficult to compare to the rest of the country. We have the fastest-growing population and are the most densely populated place in England. Development is happening at a rapid pace.’

The spokesperson said 9,000 new homes were built between 2019 and 2022, however the borough has struggled to keep up with providing enough recycling facilities and infrastructure. 

They added: ‘Also, 88 per cent of our housing stock is flats and maisonettes. This is 32 per cent higher than the London average and 64 per cent higher than in England, meaning more of our residents have to share their recycling bins compared to the majority elsewhere who are responsible for their own bin.

“The sheer numbers of people, development not keeping pace with recycling demands, ageing housing stock, and shared facilities make recycling much more difficult.’

They went on to say: ‘Add to that the thousands of visitors and workers that come to our borough every day and you can see it’s challenging. These points are for context and not to make excuses.

‘We have an ambitious plan to deliver a clean and green future for Tower Hamlets. We are committed to delivering improvements over the next five years, with initial investment in service redesign, service delivery and community engagement.’

The spokesperson said the council is spending £2.1 million on improving recycling facilities across more than 2,000 flats, and is working on pilot programmes to improve recycling services for flats above shops, as well as working with schools to encourage more of them to separate their food waste for recycling.

They said: ‘We need everyone in Tower Hamlets – residents, businesses and visitors alike – to do their bit by recycling properly, and together we can improve our rate.’

For more local news, read All Points East organisers could almost double event days in Victoria Park under new licence.

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